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Money Is the Top Motivator for Employees Who Quit Their Jobs

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
Updated Jun 29, 2022

Employees of all generations agree that being underpaid is the top factor motivating them to leave their jobs.

  • A study from Paychex revealed that low salary was the top reason employees leave for a new job. The survey interviewed baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials.
  • Additional reasons for leaving a job varied by generation. Surveyed responses included lack of benefits, being overworked and lack of caring from employers.
  • Businesses should implement strategies to reduce employee turnover. The average cost to replace a worker is $15,000.

While baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials don’t always see eye to eye on what they want out of their careers, there is one issue they all agree on. Employees from all three generations say not getting paid enough is what’s most likely to have them looking for a new job, research finds.

In a study from Paychex, one of the leading payroll software providers, nearly 70% of respondents said that a low salary is the primary reason they have left or would leave a job.

Although the largest percentage of employees from each generation indicated that pay is a driving factor behind them staying or leaving their employer, some generations say it’s a slightly more motivating factor for them.

“All three generational categories (baby boomers, Generation X, and millennials) ranked a low salary as a top reason to leave, but millennials put more importance on salary, with a whopping 70.82% of those surveyed marking it as a reason they quit,” the study’s authors wrote.

Gen X employees weren’t far behind, however, with 69.32% saying they have left or would leave a job because of a low salary. While still critical to baby boomers, it was slightly less important to them, with just 58.46% saying low pay would motivate them to find a new job. 

Top reasons employees quit their jobs

While salary issues topped all three generations’ lists, there were some key differences among their other reasons for leaving a job. Here are the top six reasons employees from each generation would leave or have left a job.

Baby boomers (born 1946-64)

  1. Low salary – 58.46%
  2. Lack of benefits – 49.23%
  3. Overworked – 47.69%
  4. Boss didn’t honor commitments – 40%
  5. Moved to another city or state – 38.46%
  6. Employers didn’t care about employees – 37.69%

Generation X (born 1965-81)

  1. Low salary – 69.32%
  2. Overworked – 60.36%
  3. Employers didn’t care about employees – 52.79%
  4. Didn’t like boss – 46.61%
  5. Moved to another city or state – 46.61%
  6. Lack of recognition or reward – 46.61%

Millennials (born 1982-2004)

  1. Low salary – 70.82%
  2. Overworked – 65.93%
  3. Employers didn’t care about employees – 54.46%
  4. Didn’t enjoy work – 52.34%
  5. Moved to another city or state – 50.35%
  6. Lack of recognition or reward – 46.03%

Some of the factors least likely to make employees from all generations look for a new job are having an employer that doesn’t offer, match or contribute to 401(k) plans; having a sense that layoffs or firings are imminent; and not being creatively engaged.

Most important employee benefits

While not getting paid enough and being overworked are reasons for workers to leave, there are some generational differences on the things that keep them where they are.

“When it comes to employees’ reasons for staying at a job, the benefits that matter vary a bit by generation,” the study’s authors wrote. “Baby boomers and Generation X rank inexpensive, quality healthcare highest on their lists of reasons to stay, while millennials long for better bonuses.”

These are the five benefits most important to each generation.

Baby boomers

  1. Inexpensive, quality healthcare
  2. Bonuses
  3. Paid sick days
  4. 401(k) matching
  5. Dental plan

Generation X

  1. Inexpensive, quality healthcare
  2. Bonuses
  3. Work-from-home days
  4. Paid sick days
  5. Flexible schedules


  1. Bonuses
  2. Inexpensive, quality healthcare
  3. Paid sick days
  4. Work-from-home days
  5. Flexible schedules

The researchers believe the study highlights what employers need to do to hold on to their employees.

“The most important tools for keeping your best people are good salaries, bonuses, and quality healthcare, as well as ensuring that employees aren’t overworked,” they wrote.

The study was based on surveys of 2,000 employees throughout the United States.

How to keep employees from quitting

According to Employee Benefit News, employee turnover costs a whopping average of $15,000 per worker. In addition to saving money, employee retention is essential to ensure talent remains within your workplace. Although there is no surefire way to keep employees from quitting, you can enact strategies to reduce your overall employee turnover.

  • Show respect to all your employees. Listen to what they have to say and show them that their opinions matter at work. Give praise when praise is due, and frame any negative feedback in a constructive way.

  • Be consistent as a manager. When you state your expectations from the start and don’t change the rules on a whim, you will make all employees feel more secure in their positions.

  • Allow employees to take the lead. By giving them more room to grow, you show that you value their work and see a future for them within your company. Listen to their ideas and see if you can implement any of their suggestions.

  • Give employees opportunities to expand their skill sets. Money isn’t the only driving force for leaving or staying at a company. Training initiatives give team members chances to enhance their resumes by adding new skills.  

Image Credit:

Zinkevych / Getty Images

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Business News Daily Staff
Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.